I was lucky enough to be one of their public health interns for the semester as well as earn upper-division biology elective credits. As a public health intern, I worked with the organization’s international logistics coordinator to help plan the missions. I was also able to do research on the different areas of the world where their missions are held and gather information on each country’s public-health regulations and codes.
The most valuable lesson I learned through my internship with Smile Network is that giving back is what living is truly about. Serving those who are in need is an experience no one can take away from you, and the memories of not only helping someone else, but also yourself, are lifelong. This lesson is one I will take with me throughout my entire life and hope for it to be an everyday reminder in my medicine career.
I have always had an interest in Smile Network’s adventure travel, as I am a very outdoorsy and adventurous person. I also aspire to have a career in medicine, so the medical mission in addition to the Inca Trail trek made it an easy decision for me. Hiking the Inca Trail in the Andes Mountains of Peru for four days was an experience I will never forget and I would do it again in a heartbeat. The most valuable part of the trip for me, though, was the medical mission. As all of us trekkers and volunteers raised all of the money for the 37 children that received surgeries, it was heart-warming to meet these kids and spend time getting to know them and their families.
I am studying to become a physician assistant, hopefully specializing in pediatrics someday. I plan to pursue the PA career path because I want to advance my knowledge in medicine and be able to work as a vital part of a healthcare team, while serving others who need proper medical care. I like the flexibility to study and work in different specialties, and the opportunity it affords to advance and grow in the field.
My advice for my first-year self would be to not be intimidated, to get out there right away and try new things. People appreciate drive and willingness to help, so working in a research lab, volunteering at a local non-profit or joining a new student group are all acceptable things to start right away in college.